I talked a little bit last week about the release of the new OMD album, ‘History of Modern’, but would like to spend a bit more time talking about OMD today.
The music of OMD has played a number of important roles in my life over the years. For me, OMD is not so much about music as it is about an entire experience. I will do my best to explain what I mean by that in this post. I mentioned before that I first fell in love with OMD when the movie ‘Pretty in Pink‘ came out. Their song ‘If you leave’ was one of the standout tracks on the movie’s soundtrack, and was a huge radio hit here in America. For some reason, I remember riding the bus home from school with that song playing on the radio. I thought to myself that ‘If you leave’ was one of the coolest songs I had ever heard. To this day, I still think that is true – it’s a prefect pop song.
OMD's 'If you leave'
I later reconnected with the band around 1993 when they released their ‘Liberator‘ album. That particular record is not one of my OMD favorites, but it was good enough to rekindle my romance with the band. At that point, I began to purchase any and all OMD records I didn’t already have. Finding the album ‘Pacific Age’ turned out to be a particular challenge given that the album had been deleted by the record company. But, on a weekend home from college I was dumbfounded when I found it searching in a discount bin at a K-Mart of all places. Probably the only think K-Mart has been good for…well, that and Martha Stewart!
When I was on campus at the University of Portland, I spent many Saturday afternoons at my favorite record store in Portland (2nd Ave Records) searching through boxes and boxes of LPs and CDs trying to find rare or imported OMD albums. My heart would leap with joy when I would find something new. I must admit that there was an element of rivalry in this, too. My friend Joel and I both loved the same bands and we would often try to ‘one up’ each other with our latest finds. In fact, the rivalry was such that the staff at 2nd Ave Records began to recognize me as ‘that OMD guy’. I would like to think my enthusiasm for the band was charming to them.
OMD's 'Everyday' - One of many 2nd Ave finds!
It was also during this time that I remember hanging out one day in Portland with two of my old best friends from High School; Jacob and Josh. We were blasting OMD’s ‘Dollar Girl’ in Jacob’s car as we cruised down the avenue. Jacob and Josh didn’t really like the same kind of music as me, but they let me have my moment and I loved it: the bass was pumping and we didn’t have a care in the world. Sadly, a few short months later, Jacob unexpectedly passed away. I will always remember that time in his car together as one of my fondest memories. To this day, I often think of him and Josh when I listen to that song.
In 1996 I took a vacation to visit my grandparents in Long Beach California (my birthplace, by the way). This was shortly after my father had passed away. One day, my grandfather and I spent our time record shopping together. He was big fan of classical music, movie soundtracks and being a Scot, traditional Scottish music. We went to many music stores on our journey, having long conversations about music as we went from shop to shop. He took my interest in music more seriously than anyone else. And, as luck would have it, that day in the Virgin Megastore in Newport turned out to be a goldmine of finds for me. There, sitting in the import bin was a copy of OMD’s latest album ‘Universal‘. I eagerly snatched it up along with copies of the album’s debut single ‘Walking on the Milky Way’ and couldn’t wait to get back to my grandparents house to hear the new album. Little did I know at the time that ‘Universal’ would be OMD’s last album until this year’s ‘History of Modern’.
I was devastated when OMD retired after Universal failed to generate the commercial buzz the band had hoped for. I had not realized just how important they had become to me. I was a young guy trying to figure himself out: who was I? Was I gay? What did I believe in? Was it ok to be me? Why did my father have to die? I didn’t know the answers to any of those questions. But, I all knew was that when I put on an OMD record all my problems melted away. All I felt was music – glorious music!
Even though OMD had retired, I continued my hunt for rare OMD material and continued to play their records with just as much passion. I felt like I had won the lottery when I purchased a deleted copy of OMD’s single ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ because the word ‘Orchestral’ had been misspelled as ‘Orchstral’ on the spine of the CD. I treated each new purchase as prized possession and I cherished every new b-side track I found as if it were a rare gemstone.
Front Cover of OMD's Ltd. Edition CD single 'Sailing on the Seven Seas'
In the meantime, I began writing my own electronic music on my computer. I would sit in the dark and listen to OMD songs over and over again and ask myself ‘how the hell did they do THAT?’ and then do my best to figure it out on my computer. For years I have been tinkering away at my computer trying to write an OMD song but always failing. Whenever I sit down to write, OMD is always in the back of my head and I am always trying to emulate them. I will never write anything as good as OMD, I am simply not that talented; but, I sure do enjoy trying.
During 2005 when it was announced that OMD would be reuniting, I was a like a compass near north. At that time, the band expected only to tour together, not write. But, words can not describe the emotion I felt when I heard the band had decided to return to the studio and write a new record. It was as if a long lost friend who had helped me through some really tough times was returning.
The day the album finally arrived, I told my partner that I would be spending the majority of the day listening to the album. There would be no talking, there would be no phone calls, there would be no interruptions whatsoever. And, I was damn serious! My day was for OMD, and nobody else but OMD. First, I unwrapped the box, and took pictures during the process. I carefully removed the LPs, examined the gate-fold artwork, and then made my way to the CD, carefully unwrapping the shrink wrap. I practically sprinted to my computer to download the tracks to my i-Tunes library so I could begin listening. To prepare, I grabbed a fresh cup of coffee, put my headphones on and eagerly awaited to push the play button…
OMD's History of Modern box set
The end, Part 1